The latest educational technology in the Stewart Junior Centre is creating some amazing learning opportunities for students, says Head of Junior Syndicate and Assistant Principal of the Preparatory School, Heather Orman. “Students are highly engaged in the new technology, which is helping them to problem-solve, develop their communication, critical thinking and collaborative skills, and have a lot of fun as they learn.”
Some exciting examples include students learning basic coding skills alongside Bee Bot bumblebee robots, taking virtual field trips, learning from games and apps on new touchscreen interactive whiteboards, and sharing their work with parents through the Seesaw program.
Heather says the introduction of the new technology has been a stimulating learning curve for the teachers in the Junior Department as well, who have been well supported by St Andrew’s College. “Teacher, Anneke Kamo, has been brought in to provide an hour of instruction each week to ensure that we are getting the best out of the technology. As a team we take a collaborative approach, helping each other and sharing our individual professional learning outcomes. We’ve definitely been set up for success.”
The Junior Department utilises Microsoft Surface Hub, a communal technology hub, which serves the entire Centre. It has been nicknamed ‘Stewart’ after the Stewart Junior Centre, with all the children aware of the name. In the learning hallway, in the middle of the Centre, are several desktop computers where students can work. They also have access to 16 laptop computers on wheels, which are shared between the eight classrooms.
The touchscreen interactive whiteboard in each classroom is positioned at student height, and comes with ActivInspire software, with an assortment of exciting tools, games, images, and activities to engage the students and bring lessons to life. Students can work to a certain level on the board, then pick up where they left off last time. This enables them to select the next steps they need for their own learning. The Junior Department teachers say they have seen quite a shift from the whiteboards being a novelty for the students to a real learning tool. The teachers can even save the work students have completed on the interactive whiteboards back to their computers.
The entire Junior Syndicate has committed to the Seesaw program for the first time this year, which allows students and teachers to create digital portfolios which can instantly be shared with parents online. The students enjoy putting together their portfolio, which might include samples of their classwork, or a photograph of them engaged in an activity, such as Discovery Time on a Friday. It is almost like a social network, as parents and other family members, even those across the other side of the world, have instant access to the updates, and can like or comment on the posts. The Junior teachers say Seesaw is proving a real conversation starter for parents and students, enhancing their communication with families.
The students have also enjoyed attending virtual field trips, which enable them to have a real-time outside learning experience in the classroom. Mystery Skyping is another popular activity, where two students hide somewhere in the school, and over Skype, the rest of the class asks open questions to figure out where they are. This helps the children to develop confidence in front of the camera as they build up towards Skyping another school across the world.
Heather says general infrastructure such as sound systems and internet connectivity have all been enhanced in the new Stewart Junior Centre. “The new technology has made learning more interesting and fun for our students. It is helping them to develop essential skills they will need as they complete their schooling and beyond.”